Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have not more than four years to live."
That comment, widely attributed to physicist Albert Einstein, is all over the web. And it keeps surfacing in news stories, talk shows, opinion pieces, documentaries, essays and blogs--just about everywhere where bees are and where they aren't.
Problem is, Einstein (1879-1955) didn't say it.
Even Snopes came out and said Einsten, didn't say it.
Albert Einstein was a physicist, not an apiculturist, ecologist or entomologist. Besides, colony collapse disorder (CCD) didn't gain the news media's attention until 2006.
No one has traced the origin of the comment attributed to Einstein, but some folks think it originated in either France or England. Kind of reminds us of all the places that say "Abraham Lincoln slept here" or "George Washington slept here" or quotes falsely attributed to them.
Snopes said it well: "One tried-and-true method for getting people to pay attention to words is to put them into the mouth of a well-known, respected figure whom the public perceives as being an expert in the subject at hand."
Not only did Einstein NOT say it, but it the quote doesn't take into account that millions of people throughout the world exist on grains (such as rice and wheat), which are not pollinated by bees.
One third of the American diet is pollinated by bees, but that's not the case in much of the world.
"Honey bees are thought to have inhabited our planet up to 40 million years," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "They survived the dinosaurs and the glaciers. It is likely they still will be here long after many other animals have gone extinct."
The United Nations, in its recent report on "Global Bee Colony Disorders and Other Threats to Insect Pollinators," agreed that "the health and well-being of pollinating insects are crucial to life, be it in sustaining natural habitats or contributing to local and global economies."
"The contribution of pollinators to the production of crops used directly for human food has been estimated at $153 billion globally, which is about 9.5 percent of the total value of human food production worldwide," according to the report. Those crops include these categories: vegetables, cereals, sugar crops, edible all crops, fruits, roots and tubers, nuts, and spikes.
Soon someone will be quoting Albert Einstein as saying "the health and well-being of pollinating insects are crucial to life, be it in sustaining natural habitats or contributing to local and global economies."
Or honey bee guru Eric Mussen.
Honey Bee on Almond
Think what it would be like if you increased your weight by 1000 times in six days.
But that's exactly what worker bee larvae do in the honey bee colony. "They increase in weight 1000 times during the six days that they feed," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
"Worker bees," Mussen said, "will deposit food in their cells 10,000 times during those six days."
In peak season, the queen bee can lay up to 2000 eggs a day. No wonder she's called an "egg-laying machine."
From egg to larva to pupa to adult, that's the cycle of the honey bee.
Honey Bee Cells
Newly Emerged Bee
It's Valentine's Day and it's a honey of a day.
Valentine cards proclaim "Bee Mine" and "Bee My Valentine."
Invariably, there's a happy honey bee buzzing around a flower on a Valentine's Day card. With the onset of colony collapse disorder, the smile may be fading a bit, but the honey bee is still very much a part of Valentine's Day.
“Honey is nature’s best and sweetest sweet,” said bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, who does research at both UC Davis and Washington State University. “It tastes sweeter than sugar, so you use less when you’re cooking with it.”
“Also it comes in as many flavors as there are bee flowers,” she said. “It’s a high-energy simple, natural sweet. Athletes use it for a quick pickup.” Each tablespoon of honey provides 17 grams of carbohydrates or 64 calories.
Honey, she said, is one to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar—and that’s especially “sweet” on Valentine’s Day when folks partake of such dishes as honey-baked ham, honey-mustard chicken, whole wheat honey bread and assorted honey desserts. And then there’s mead, or honey wine.
The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime; on one collection trip, she visits 50 to 100 flowers. The workers in a beehive may collectively travel 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers “just to gather enough nectar to make a pound of honey,” Cobey said.
Depending on the location, the average healthy hive can yield from 50 to 500 pounds of honey a year. “In Canada they get crops of 300 to 500 pounds—surplus harvest,” Cobey said. “It’s about 50 pounds here. This is their winter feed.”
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty says the bees’ floral source determines the color and flavor of honey.
The standard colors are water white, extra white, white, extra light amber, light amber, amber and dark amber, he said. The lighter colors tend to be mild and the darker colors, more robust.
"The milder flavors are good for drizzling over pancakes and oatmeal or for vegetable dishes," said Mussen, who writes the bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, available free on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website. "The darker, more robust colors, are excellent recipe ingredients, providing substantial honey flavor and resistance of the final product to 'drying out.'"
"For great lemonade," he said, "try mixing one cup of freshly squeezed lemon with one cup of liquid honey, and add water to fill a quart."
Now that sounds like a honey of lemonade on a honey of a day!
Hear the buzz in the California almond orchards?
It's almost pollination time.
The season usually begins around Feb. 1. This year California has some 750,000 acres of almonds, and each acre requires two bee colonies to pollinate.
That's 1.2 million colonies needed to pollinate the almonds, according to honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Since California doesn't have that many colonies--the number is around 500,000--the remainder must come from beekeepers outside the state.
Christine Souza of Ag Alert, the weekly newspaper for California agriculture, wrote in the Jan. 19th edition that pollinating the state's $3.2 billion crop is not without problems: thieves steal bee hives. Beekeeper Brian Long, Madera County, reported losing 400 colonies last month, a total loss of $120,000, Souza said.
To thwart thieves, beekeepers brand their names and phone numbers on their boxes. (We know a beekeeper who also brands his driver's license.)
It's a good idea to store hives behind enclosed and locked gates, the Ag Alert article noted, and "to give nearby property owners descriptions of your vehicles so that they can report any suspicious activity or vehicles."
Perhaps those Hollywood producers looking for story ideas could take what's happening in the bee yards and film another version of "The Sting."
Honey Bee on Almond
Honey bee expert Eric Mussen of UC Davis offers some good advice in a piece that he and commercial beekeeper Gene Brandi of Los Banos wrote in the current edition of CAPCA Advisor, published by the California Assoiciaton of Pest Control Advisors.
Mussen, an Extension apiculturist and member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, and Brandi, a long-time beekeeping legislative advocate, emphasized these two points:
1. The best way to protect honey bees from damage by pesticides is to keep them from being exposed.
2. To prevent negative effects of pesticides of all types, do not apply them to blooming plants upon which the bees are foraging.
Pesticides can have "negative effects on queens, drones, developing brood and bee behavior that eventually result in weakened or dead colonies," they wrote.
Honey bees can die from injesting pesticides on plants and in contaminated water. Or they can be accidentally sprayed, such as when they cluster on beehives on hot evenings and are "hit by applications from directly overhead or by pesticide drift."
Bees carry pesticide residue back to the hive. "All types of pesticides contain some products that are toxic to developing honey bee brood," they wrote.
"It would be nice to think that we know all about the effects of pesticides on adults and immature honey bees, but that just is not the case."
What we do know is that honey bees pollinate about a third of the agricultural crops produced in the United States and the bee population is decreasing.